All posts by mattthebaldrunner

Professional photographer, unprofessional runner - learning all the time, whinging most of the time, loving every minute.

If the cap fits…

I nearly always wear a cap on a run. Either to protect my head from the sun or, more often, to keep the rain out of my eyes, I consider it a pretty essential piece of kit when I head out of the door. So I was pleased to be given an On running cap to trial and give a bit of feedback on.

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I have to be honest, I had no idea that On did anything other than running shoes. I’ve used their shoes in the past, running my first 24 hour race in them, and loved the cushioning they give. But that doesn’t always mean that success is going to translate into good clothing.

Also before I start I should mention that I have an unfeasibly small head! I mean ridiculously small. I really struggle to find a one-size-fits-all cap that actually does fit. So I was interested to see what this one would look and feel like once it was on.

So, as with any cap, I have to tighten it to its smallest possible size. On some hats this means the band at the back flaps about screaming “look at me and my tiny dome”. Handily this one can tuck away inside the lining giving the illusion of a normal person’s head.

I first wore this one (in black) on a particularly hot day and was a bit worried it would fry my brain but I needn’t have worried. The hat overall is very light and the sides are well ventilated with holes cut through all the way along.

 

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I have to say, its a keeper. Its so light I didn’t really feel it was there but definitely felt the breeze going through the sides. And it doesn’t move either. Its stable even in the wind out on a pretty exposed run. I haven’t worn it in the rain yet but so long as the peak keeps the rain out of my contact lenses (one got washed out during the world half marathon championships in Cardiff last year) it gets my vote.

The only niggle, and it is a personal one, is that there still is a tiny bit too much material for a tiny headed runner. You normals should be fine though!

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I’m not injured, so don’t forget it (its just a silly phase I’m going through)

Finally my legs have decided that enough is enough. While running Abingdon marathon a week after the A100 was exhausting I thought I’d got off quite lightly as afterwards my legs felt tired but not battered.

A week later and I’d developed a small but irritating pain in the muscle just to the inside of one of my knees. Knowing that this sort of thing can only get worse without immediate attention I immediately did nothing about it.

My normal calorie intake dictates that I have to continue exercising just to maintain the status quo as the idea of refusing cake/ice cream/pizza etc is inconceivable.

And so I have kept running and, to be fair, it hurts less running than walking. Until now.

Saturday was a big day in one of my club members lives. Through a lot of self sacrifice,  convoluted planning and training he had orchestrated his 50th parkrun to coincide with his 50th birthday. And just to add a bit more pressure he’d decided he wanted to beat his PB too. So I said I’d be a pacemaker for 24 minutes (the time he wanted to break). In the end he didn’t need me as he smashed his pb by 1 minute 20! Meanwhile I had a very enjoyable run around encouraging him when he was nearby and getting very acquainted with the pace function of my Suunto.

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A rather manic looking me, pacing Phil (in vest behind me)
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A slightly less manic me pacing absolutely no-one at all

It wasn’t until I got home afterwards that I realised the niggle was back with a vengeance. Going upstairs was ok but coming down was a little bit more interesting.

The following day was probably my favourite half marathon of all, the Marlow Half. I was never going to run it anyway as I was taking November off from any competitive running but there was no way I could have done it in my current state. Especially with the “massively undulating” nature of the course.

Instead I’d said I would photograph our club members who were running to update our website.

At first there were the normal club runner type pictures albeit in very picturesque surroundings.

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Luckily spotting our club is easy with quite a distinctive red kit meaning I could pick them out quite early.

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But then, far in the distance came a vision in black and white. At first it seemed like a waddle of penguins (the collective noun, I googled it) had swum up the Thames and fancied a bit of group running. But as they got closer the answer was far more sensible.

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Nineteen naughty nuns, none necessarily anointed, stormed into view acting in a very unholy way.

Just over a year ago a much loved member (famous for his love of donning a habit) passed away so last Marlow Half to commemorate his life, some club members dressed in nuns costumes and ran the course. As you do. This year it escalated!

Which made for some interesting pictures…

I can’t remember the last Sunday I didn’t run but although I was a bit jealous I had a great time cheering and photographing and chatting to fellow spectators.

So even though I’m in denial, and will almost certainly run on Tuesday whether I should or not, this non-running lark is quite fun.

A non running Sunday? Ooh you’ll wait a long time for me…

Abingdon Marathon – why the f***

Hot on the heels of my last race post (and I still haven’t got round to Berlin Marathon yet) here’s a very quick review of my Abingdon marathon last weekend.

The Monday after A100 I was in a bit of trouble. Ankles were a bit tender but worse was my left knee and the soles of my feet. I’d only picked up one blister, and it wasn’t a bad one, on my toe but walking was pretty painful. I was sure I wouldn’t be ready for Abingdon in 6 days time.

But the body is an amazing thing and by Tuesday my legs were feeling pretty good and on  Wednesday I went out for a gentle 3 miler.

On race day I met up with fellow club runners Charmain and Helen, and Mike our former coach and unwavering supporter.

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I’d spent the morning taping and re-taping my feet but aside from still tingling soles I didn’t feel too bad.

My plan was to run around 4.30 though I would try 9.30 minute miles and see what happened.

I was looking forward to running with no pressure for a change. Chairman and Helen were both going for pb’s so we wished each other luck and set off.

The first few miles were OK but by mile 4 I was feeling a bit tired. By 7 I was really tired and by 10 not having a great time.

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The bottom half is run twice so you can see the mile markers for the second time round. Normally that wouldn’t bother me but it just constantly reminded me how far I had left to run. Eventually I made it all the way round and onto the second loop. Psychologically this was a huge boost and those dead miles between 15 and 20 went by ok. I had a few spasms in my left hamstring so daren’t really go too fast and in fact slowed a bit between these miles. I really didn’t want to pull anything for no real gain.

I’d been averaging about 9.15’s and at 20 miles realised if I pushed just a tiny bit I could come in a fraction under 4 hours. There wasn’t any need for it, no extra medal or kudos to be gained but it gave me a bit of focus and something to think about. My maths isn’t great at the best of times but 20 miles into a marathon it takes a long time to compute.

My legs started to perk up and the fatigue left as I had something to occupy my brain. The last few miles were really enjoyable and I passed quite a few runners in the last couple of miles.

The final 300m were back on the running track. I could see the clock was at 3.59 something as I went to pass the girl in front of me. I shouted at her to keep up as I thought we could both get under 4 hours. She responded and we had a great sprint at the end with me shouting encouragement (hopefully not in a patronising way!) on the way to the finish. We both made it over the line with the clock showing 3.59:58

However we had both started quite far to the back so my chip time was 3.59:06 and she had started even further back beating me by 7 seconds.

It was a great end to a race that had been a bit of a chore for the first 18 or so miles. I’m really glad I decided to run it, and very pleased my legs held up OK.

Both Charmain and Helen got pb’s and Mike had walked 14 miles around the course giving us all a bit of a lift as we went past! So we were a pretty happy bunch at the end.

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Centurion Autumn 100 – a cross to bear

There have been a lot of blogs over the past week from people who completed – or didn’t complete – this years A100. Blogs from experienced and first time 100 competitors. It’s taken a while for me to get my thoughts together, mainly because I had Abingdon marathon 7 days later and was trying to get my head round how I was going to get through that.

This was my first “proper” 100 mile race. In June I did the 24 hour Trackathon and completed 101 miles but this was something different – all trail and no drink station every 400 metres.

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There was an option to have people crew for you and to pace in the last 50 miles but, due to the nature of the course (4 out and backs) and that I’m a pretty unsociable chap, I decided to go it alone on both counts.

I got into Goring unfeasibly early for a 10am start (as I’m wont to do) got my kit checked and basically hung around til the start. It was all a bit intimidating with tall, angular, prominent cheek-boned types wandering confidently around or taping feet in a professional manner. My only crumb of comfort was that I had the same race vest as a lot of the others and it was as beaten up looking as theirs. Small things…

Eventually we all walked towards the start. It was cold and I wished I’d brought a long sleeved shirt with me as most of the others seemed to.

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No time for what ifs though as we were soon off on the first 25 mile out and back.

Leg 1 – the one with the dead deer

I made sure I wasn’t near the front at the start and quickly fell in with a train of about 10 people. The tracks were narrow and only allowed single file running so we were dependent on the lead person to force the pace. We were 10 minute mileing which seemed pretty good for the beginning so I sat in and enjoyed the countryside. Soon people ahead were stopping to take off their extra layers, hats and gloves.

Making a brief detour onto the main road I saw a young deer stretched out on the side of the road, a proper deer, not a muntjak. It seemed like an omen, that maybe I should take a bit of care.

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Thankfully the rest of the leg took care of itself and I could enjoy running the long stretches of river bank, the pretty villages and town without any issue. The sun was shining there was plenty of activity on the river to distract me. Life was pretty good.

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I got into Goring in around 4 hours, about half an hour quicker than I would have liked but it was a mile shorter than I expected and totally flat so I wasn’t too worried.

My plan, such as it was, was to try to do the first 2 legs in around 9 hours leaving me 15 hours to complete the last 2 (I had told people I just wanted to finish in the 28 hour cut off but secretly really wanted a sub 24).

I had a very brief stop at Goring, just to fill up water bottles and got under way

Leg 2 – the one with the dead Suunto

Leg 2 went out in the same direction as leg 1 but on the other side of the river. More bucolic views, picturesque villages and sunshine. The first checkpoint came quickly, only 4 miles in and all was good with the world.

Then it all got a bit nasty. I’m not sure if it was the trees, the hills or the fact that, to save battery I’d changed the settings on my Suunto to pick up gps every 5 seconds instead of every 1 second, but the next checkpoint never seemed to be getting any closer. It should have been 8.5 miles from the first feed station to the next one, which should have been at around 37.5 miles, but I kept running and my watch kept ticking over and pretty soon I was at 40+ miles and no checkpoint in site. I hadn’t gone wrong, I was following the signs and there were other runners around me. Eventually I reached the turn with my watch at 46 miles. I was a bit demoralised but as most of the last half had been uphill at least I had a good bit of down to come.

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At the pre race briefing we’d been told it would start getting wet at around 5pm. 4.50 came and so did the rain. It was still pretty warm though and my waterproof did the job. I ran into Goring for the second time with just under 9 hours gone.

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Definitely tired now, but happy I’d achieved my halfway target. It was gloomy when I got to Goring, dark when I left which added another dimension. I lingered too long at the checkpoint, changing top, socks and adding a long-sleeved base-layer before heading out into the dark.

Leg 3 – the one with all the cake

I’d recce’d this leg a few weeks before and really wasn’t looking forward to it as the “out” lap was pretty much all uphill. I’d been told at Goring by one of the volunteers that it was better in the dark as you couldn’t see how far uphill you had left to go and so it proved. There was a lot more run/walking on this stage and I started to struggle about 6 miles in (56 in total). I was determined to beat my 100km time though (11 hours 57minutes from Race to the Stones). The first checkpoint was 8.5 miles out (52 miles) and I was pretty battered by now. However, knowing the turn around was only 4 miles away got me going (along with a decent cup of coffee, lots of Coke and some salt tablets)

As I approached the checkpoint I saw what looked to me like a spaceship, all coloured pulsing, throbbing lights. The hallucinations would come later, this was the party tent! 62 mile checkpoint arrived as I crested yet another hill (ok a pretty gentle slope but by this time they all counted as hills) in 11 hours 30 something.

I was done, exhausted, finished. I slumped into a chair (stupid), took of one of my shoes (stupid) and sat in a daze. Out of nowhere I had a piping hot coffee and a slice of ginger cake put in my hands. The disco lights and pumping music, and another piece of ginger cake got me out of my chair and I was back on my way. I tentatively started running. And didn’t stop until the next checkpoint 4 miles away. I suddenly felt great again.Not sure what was in that Ginger cake but I want the recipe. I knew it probably wouldn’t last so raced through the checkpoint and headed back to Goring and the final leg.

Goring 3

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I stayed too long. True, I needed to change tops, socks, eat, and drink but something told me I had been there too long. Actually, someONE told me I’d been there too long. Quite vociferously too.

And they were right. I’d read on a Facebook page someone say that checkpoints are evil and I knew what he meant. It was 1 o’clock in the morning, dark, cold, a bit drizzly. Why would you want to leave a warm community centre filled with not only coffee and food but also, demoralizingly, runners who had finished, who were TWENTY SIX miles ahead of me!

Leg 4 – the one with the melon and the lube

The final leg was out to Reading and back and I expected it to be the same flat terrain as leg 1. And for the first two miles it was. And then it wasn’t. At all. Relentless climbing resulted in a plunging descent and then a wall. It was so steep some altruistic person had cut steps into the slope and put a handrail next to it giving us the slightest chance of making it up. It probably wasn’t very long, possibly not that steep but 77 miles in it was the north face of the Eigar.

Down the other side into the midway checkpoint and I took on some much needed coffee and even more necessary Vaseline. One of the downsides of being kicked out of Goring was I’d forgotten to address a certain “downstairs” problem. Always one to multitask I took the tub of Vaseline and a slice of melon into the toilets accompanied by a few choice suggestions.

The next 17 miles were a nightmare. Most of it was flat, with the exception of the stairs (!) over the railway but my specific training for Berlin Marathon two weeks before showed on this last leg. I had nothing left, but the prospect of walking the next 22 miles was horrendous so I devised a fun game. There were people occasionally running back towards me so, when I saw the light of their head torch, I started running and wouldn’t stop until I’d got just past then, then walk again. Depending on the strength of the lamp or the curve in the river, it could be a few hundred metres or far longer.

By this time I was getting pretty weak and dizzy. I could feel I wasn’t exactly walking in a straight line and started to get a bit worried. I forced down a good portion of my remaining jelly babies but the sugar wasn’t helping. I was crashing badly.

And then I remembered the coffee beans. Chocolate covered dead posh coffee beans in an assortment of flavours. I chucked them, in not tasting anything but coffee, and washed them down. Almost immediately I felt better, soon I felt wired! I have never felt so awake at 4 in the morning. Not since the early 90’s raves anyway.

The rest was a formality. Run to the head torch, walk the rest, out to the 87 mile checkpoint, turn round, do it all again.

Soon enough I was back at the final checkpoint and 4 miles to go. If I walked it I reckoned I’d be back by 7.30, which I was more than happy with.

So I did. Nearly.

There was this other runner. We’d been overtaking each other on and off from the second leg. A nod or a smile of recognition when we saw each other, a raised eyebrow at a checkpoint as we passed. And as I left the last checkpoint he arrived.

As competitions go it wasn’t the most important but exhaustion and lack of sleep made it imperative that he didn’t overtake me.

And so we battled. At least I battled, he had no idea any of this was going on. I marched to the top of the hill and marched back down the precipitous wall I’d struggled up some 5 hours previously, crawled up the final hill and started running. True this was a long gentle downhill but running felt great. Especially when I was the one running back and others were coming towards me.

I soon stopped when I reached the flat but I only had a couple of miles left.

Then I saw the light of a head torch behind me getting brighter with every step and he passed me. Wait though, wrong shape, too short. Not him. I don’t care if some random passes me, he had no knife in this fight. I let him go.

But looking behind I did see another torch in the distance. So I did what any right-minded person who had just run 99 miles would do. I ran, as fast as my hobbled legs would carry me, along the river, up to the bridge and up the final slope to the finish.

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And that was that. 21 hours 17 minutes after starting I was sat with a piping hot chilli con carne and a One Day Finishers buckle. And looking on as my nemesis came in after me.

There was only one thing left to do. Hobble to the car, drive home, get a quick bath and go out for lunch for my daughter’s birthday meal.

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Because some things are more important…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you care about such things (and I do) here is a quick kit list

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2x ashmei running jerseys

1x ashmei shorts

1x ronhill shorts

3x more mile socks

1x hoka challenger shoes

3x head torch (1 petzl reactik, 1 alpkit + 1 emergency petal E lite)

1x foil blanket

1x map

2x long sleeved tops 1x berghaus 1x no idea (very old)

Ultimate Direction Scott Jurek race vest (v2 I think, not the latest) + 2 UD bottles

1x salmon bonatti waterproof jacket

haribo tangfastics, jelly babies, whittards chocolate covered coffee beans

A day in the Lakes

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This week I took really late decision to get up to the Lake District for a bit of a runaround. It’s an area I know pretty well having hiked around there in my youth and not-so-youth and I couldn’t wait to get up there for a run.

I’d decided I would keep costs down by sleeping in the car. It was only one night and I’d done it before. On a whim though I checked out a late booking site and came across the Thorneyfield Guest House in Ambleside. I knew the name as a couple of doors down had been Head To The Hills, a walking shop I’d spent a lot of time in. I went to their own website and found they had a room for £35, £35 cheaper than on the booking site and including breakfast. It would have been silly not to!

I left home at 6.30 and was at the Kendal turn of the M6 by 10am. It then took me nearly two hours to get to Boot thanks to the combination of Hardknott and Wryness Passes and some idiot drivers!

By 12 I was parked up and ready to go. The idea was to run from Dalegarth along the valley floor and up to Scafell. Then I’d descend down past Broad Stand and back up to Scafell Pike. Ideally I wanted to then run on and come back along Cringle Crags if I had time. The only time constraint was that I had to check in by 8.30 which meant being back to the car by 7.50.

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The weather was pretty much perfect, slightly cool, dry but with the chance of rain (which was to come, on and off in the later parts of the day). The first mile or so was fairly flat along the road to Boot and up past the Woolpack Inn then on to the hills.

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View from above the Woolpack Inn looking towardsKirk Fell – route to Scafell is the dark green on the right

I’d finally bought a tripod adaptor for my iPhone and wanted to have a play with some slow shutter pictures (using the Slow Shutter Cam app) so stopped a fair bit at any stretch of water to experiment.

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From this stream it was a fairly simple straight line to the the next landmark, Burnmoor Tarn, a fairly sizeable lake. At least it would have been had all my sense of direction not decided to go on a walk of their own. I ended up scrambling on ledges up Eskdale Fell until, way below me, I saw the footbridge I needed to get onto the right path. Several stretches of almost impenetrable bracken and several lacerations later, I was finally on the right path and able to get a bit of running in. Pretty soon it was time for the steady climb up to the first summit, Scafell.

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Climbing towards Scafell – Burnmoor Tarn in the background

The climb up was fairly uneventful but I realised quickly that my notions of running serenely up to the peak were wildly optimistic. It became more of a lung-screaming forced march but eventually I got there.

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Scafell Summit looking down Lingmell Gill

Now for the soul destroying descent past Foxes Tarn before climbing back up again to Scafell Pike. Unfortunately without ropes and knowledge this is the only way to get to Scafell Pike from Scafell. Years ago I climbed through Lord’s Rake, a narrow passage of scree that joins Scafell to a path to Scafell Pike from the Wasdale end but the large boulder that had fallen into the path had recently shifted again so it wasn’t worth the risk.

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Descending from Scafell

Once you literally hit rock bottom it is a steep ascent back up to Mickledore, the saddle between the two Scafells. Here there is a hand Mountain Rescue box that I’ve sheltered behind before in lousy weather.

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Mickledore looking back towards Broad Stand and Scafell

From here it was a simple run up to Scafell Pike, though the last few metres are a bit of a scramble over sizeable loose rocks. As nearly always happens to me as soon as I hit the summit the fog and rain came in so I didn’t hang around.

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Scafell Pike in all its glory

I had to be a bit careful with no visibility to find the right path and ignored my already failed sense of direction relying rather on OS maps and GPS to take me onto the path towards Broad Crag and Great End. Naturally the weather cleared as soon as I was off the summit.

Initially my plan was to then ascend Bow Fell and run along Cringle Crags before returning to Boot but already I knew I was going to run out of time so instead I turned before Esk Pike and started down the valley following the River Esk. Time for a bit more slow shutter stuff.

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The run down the valley was fantastic, though quite technical in places. I was running underneath the Scafells and the views back up to the peaks was pretty satisfying, knowing Id been up there only an hour or two beforehand. The path would come and go but I couldn’t get lost as long as I was vaguely near the stream. I got caught out in a few bogs, going up to my thigh in a couple of places but my feet were so wet anyway it just added to the fun.

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At a sharp left hand bend in the river I turned right following the contours around Cam Spout Crag (I love these names), and a couple of miles later reached Taw House.

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From here I could have run the road back to my car (another couple of miles) but there was an alternative route, crossing the road and continuing to follow the River Esk all the way to Beckfoot Bridge where my car was.

In all an incredible days running, scrambling, climbing and falling over. I’ll definitely do the route again but make sure I’ve got at least a couple more hours to take in Cringle Crags as well. Got to the guest house in time, had a quick shower and best of all got to the chippy just before they closed. Happy days.

A quick word on the kit I took with me – I travelled relatively light but carried most of the essentials.

Waterproof OS map OL6, Satmap GPS, Compass, whistle, foil blanket, plasters, Ashmei hooded sweatshirt, Salomon waterproof jacket, Ronhill gloves, buff, a couple of trek bars and a chorizo sub, Joby gorilla pod and iPhone adaptor, iPhone. The majority of the gear I got into my superb Ultimate Direction Scott Jurek race vest 2 with the tripod and waterproof strapped with the external bungees. Two 500ml water bottles were housed on the front. This is truly an amazing vest and although tiny it is amazing what you can get in it with all the extra pockets it has. I’ve had this one for a couple of years and wouldn’t be without it.First glance of the SJ3 looks like they have done away with all the handy pockets which would be a shame.

I wore an Ashmei jersey (t-shirt to you and me) and Ashmei shorts. The shirt is great with a pack as I never have any chafing, unlike with polyester shirts and the shorts have an inner short which, again has never given me a chafing problem. (I’m not a fan of chafing if you couldn’t guess!)

Finally socks were Hilly mono skins and I ran in a very old pair of Mizuno Harriers. I chose those as they had so much more grip than my Hoka Challengers. They are pretty much at the end of their life now so I’ll be looking for a new pair of light grippy trail shoes. Any suggestions?

Finally, finally, here is a breakdown of the miles

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Gettin’ Dizzy With It – 24 hours round a track

It’s taken a while to get round to writing up this run. Mostly because I’ve been flat out with work ever since but also because there is so much to write about and I’ve got a very short attention span. Here, then is a (hopefully) potted history of my 24 hour run around a 400m track.

Just to put it in context this was a charity event organised by a few members of my running club (Handy Cross Runners) for the benefit of 3 local charities (details at the end). It was, fundamentally, a 24 hour relay broken down into 30 minute slots with runners paying £5 per half hour. It started at 7pm on Friday 17th June.

5pm 17th June – arrived at track. Tent had already been put up by friend – soon to become enemy, then friend again – Alex. Faffed around a lot laying out clothes, getting changed, endless trips to loo etc.

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View from my tent

6.50pm – called in for base line medical exam. BP, HR and blood sugars. Bit stressful as very close to start

7pm  –  we’re off. 13 relay teams  using lanes 1-3 and 3 of us solo runners (one other runner, Steve, and one hand cyclist, Mark, using lanes 4+5.

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Me and Mark – and a random Panda

7-10pm – all going well. I decided I would adopt a 25/5 routine right from the start. As there was a bell rung every 30 minutes it was easy to run until the bell, then walk 5 minutes. Naturally for the first hour and a half I totally ignored this plan as I was feeling fresh but managed to rein myself in and pretty successfully stuck to the plan. During this time the family came down to see me before wandering off for a slap up meal to celebrate my daughter finishing her A-levels. Cheers guys…

10-11pm  – the heavens opened. jn-1099

What had looked like quite a nice dusk cloud formation soon brewed into a torrential rainstorm. The benefit of only having 400m to run to my tent meant I could get a rain coat on pretty quickly but I was soon soaked anyway. Throughout the 40 minutes it hammered down there was one person who remained, standing by the track, encouraging me on every lap. Jide, what a man.

The rain subsided and after a while stopped enough for me to risk changing clothes and it felt so good to be warm and dry again.

11-2am 18th June  – not a clue. Really can’t remember much at all. I was concentrating on getting to the bell so I could have a break and vaguely remember hitting marathon distance in 4 hours 30 but that’s about it. Family came back slightly the worse for wear on cocktails for a little bit and my brother was coming down for about 2 ish so I was looking forward to that.

 

2-4am – My brother arrived and ran with me for about an hour.

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Me and big bro

He was also running an hour for one of the charities so the hour of run/walking with me was just a bit of a warm up. It really made the night go quickly though as we don’t meet up that often and was good to catch up. Also the family also made a surprise visit at 3.30 which was an amazing feat!

4-7am – because it was a pretty cloudless sky and a full moon it didn’t seem to get completely dark but it was great to see the skies lighten and for morning to start appearing. I wasn’t really able to eat anything but forced half a bagel and peanut butter down. The things that were keeping me going were some super concentrated frozen orange squash bottles provided by Bev. These were a life saver throughout the run and definitely something I will adopt for future ultras.jn-1103

Some of the lovely lap counters, marking each lap we did, for 24 hours!

By now my focus was on beating my 100k pb which was 11 hours 57 minutes. I felt if I could get to that ahead of 12 hours I would be well on my way to reaching 100 miles in the 24 hours. While completing 24 hours was the main aim, I really wanted to run 100 miles at the same time. According to my Suunto watch I made it to 100k in 11 hours 37 minutes.

62 – 74 miles – time was irrelevant now. All my focus was getting to 100 miles. And it was getting harder. I kept promising myself little incentives – do so many miles and you can have a milkshake, slice of watermelon etc. I then, stupidly, decided that at 74 miles, with “just” a marathon to go, I would allow myself a 15 minute lie down. I’d seen the other solo runners stop and take breaks throughout the night so felt I was allowed the same. I’d read many times about how it’s a bad idea even to sit at an aid station but by this time I didn’t care. I was way ahead of schedule and thought I could allow myself this one luxury. I told Alex what I was doing and for him to get me if I didn’t get out of the tent in 20 minutes, crawled into my tent and laid down. I didn’t sleep but it felt soooo good to not be standing up.

15 minutes later my alarm went off and I tried to get up. Nothing was working. I couldn’t move my legs. Luckily Alex’s brother had come to check on me and pulled me out of the tent and onto my feet. I managed to shuffle round the track until my legs loosened up a bit but it was a bit of a shock that I felt so bad.

74-90 miles – the worst part of the whole event. I’d gone from a 25/5 ratio to 3/1. I ran three laps and walked one. Sometimes I walked all 4 and then another 4. Unsurprisingly the miles just wouldn’t decrease. And then me and Alex had a little falling out – talk about don’t shoot the messenger. The lap counters had worked out that my watch was way out and I had run 5 miles less than I thought. I was not a happy chappy and decided to ignore him and just go with the miles on my watch. I knew he was right, gps isn’t always strictly accurate and round a running track mostly wildly inaccurate but I couldn’t deal with that right now! I don’t remember what I said but I think he came away with the impression I wasn’t very happy with him. Sorry Alex.

90-94 miles – by now I was walking a bit more than running and had a lot of help with people walking round with me or jogging when I was up to it. This really helped as I was in a bit of a depression by now. I knew the 100 miles wasn’t far away, but also really knew I had to run even further to get the “real” 100 miles.

At 94 miles my body pretty much shut down. I’d had regular medical checks and everything was fine but I hadn’t eaten properly (or hardly at all) and didn’t want to. By this time though I was craving salt. I’d been drinking full fat coke with a couple of teaspoons of salt in it for a few hours but needed something else. I got to my tent and Marion got me some crisps. I sat down, opened the packet, put my hand in to get a crisp, and totally shut down. Couldn’t open my eyes, couldn’t move, nothing. I eventually forced the crisps down and carried on. Pretty soon I felt much better.

94-100 miles – this took for ever, I mean hours. But eventually at around 5pm I did it. People lined the track to welcome me in and it was quite an emotional moment.  I’d been joking with Chrissie, who was in charge of the BBQ for what seemed like the full 24 hours, that I wanted a burger as soon as I got to 100 miles and she duly delivered.

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Chrissie hiding her baps for once

The only problem was there was nothing I wanted less that food at that time. Sorry Chrissie.

For the next half an hour I sat beside the track resting and thinking about what I was going to do now. According to my watch, the thing I had been relying on the whole time, I had done it – completed my 100 miles within 24 hours -but really I knew I hadn’t. I had to carry on and run 100 miles as measured on the track.

100miles – 100 real miles – and so I did. And it felt great. I had no pressure on me, I’d rested for a long time and, once the stiffness went, I felt pretty good. After a while one of the counters told me I had 8 laps left to get to 100 miles and I ran pretty much the whole way. There was, embarrassingly, another celebration for my proper 100 miles and it was over. Except it wasn’t.jn-1118

100 miles – 7pm 18th June –There was still about half an hour left until the 24 hours were up so after a brief stop I kept on going. According to the Suunto I completed 107 miles and according to the track just over 101 miles.jn-1120

Team 14

And then it was all over. Prizegiving done ( I was honoured to be given the first Terry Eves Memorial Trophy) and I was chauffeured home by my daughter leaving everyone else to do all the hard work clearing up. And I did feel guilty – just a bit…

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Tearing up, just a little bit

It was am amazing experience and one I definitely wouldn’t ever do again! I loved almost every mile of it. There were so many enthusiastic, friendly, supportive, helpful people that made it not only bare able for me but also possible in the first place.

Huge thanks to Craig, Beverley, Alex, Chris, Charmain, Rachael, Simon, Phil, Dave, Chrissie, Mark, Steve, Marion, Robyn Jude, Louise, Helen, Brian, Matt, Gary, Gareth, Keith, Helene, Steve, Jo, Paul, Bex, Tim, Teresa, Jolyon, Jide,  and anyone else who I’ve forgotten who did so much to make this whole amazing day happen. I’m only banging on about it from my perspective but the point of the day wasn’t anything to do with me. It was to raise money for these 3 charities

ArticOne Foundation, Wycombe Homeless, Pepper Foundation

If you would like to donate to these charities you can!

Either here at https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/mattfowler

or the main page at https://mydonate.bt.com/teams/handycrossrunners

 

Oh, and just because I should – here’s my Strava route!

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Milton Keynes Marathon – the run in

It’s an hour before the marathon and I slowly haul myself up and away from the booth at McDonalds. Quads, calfs and the egg sized blister on my right heel are screaming as I walk towards the baggage drop off area. As I stumble and groan along the concourse outside the MK Dons stadium I’m passed by a succession of tall, rapier thin, athletic types in the process of their preliminary warm ups. I shuffle past, staring enviously at their fresh faces, fresh clothes and almost certainly fresher odours, wishing I had had a t-shirt printed, “Hey, I’m not a broken old man incapable of running another step, I’ve already run 30 miles you losers”.

As I mentioned in the previous post MK Marathon had arranged for me to get a pre-race massage so I flopped onto a table and allowed Simon from Body Limits Clinic, Newport Pagnall (shameless plug but why the hell not, he’s got lovely hands…) to do his worst.

He did.

As soon as the agony of this was over there was about 5 minutes to the start of the race. Normally I’m the keen one heading to the start half an hour before I need to having got to the race 2 hours before I needed to. This time, however, I was in no rush. If I started dead last it really didn’t matter. There were more pressing issues at hand. Or foot.

I had brought spare shorts to wear for the race but it would mean taking my shoes off as the Ashmei shorts have a very snug merino wool inner short. I couldn’t face trying to put my shoe back on so decided to carry on in the same shorts. As the weather was getting hotter I was worried I would get a bit uncomfortable “down stairs” but as it turns out this area was about the only part of me not to feel any discomfort at the end.

I chucked my sweat laden race pack at an unsuspecting baggage handler who carried it gingerly, as you would a dirty tissue, to the farthest end of the hall, quarantined.

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I joined towards the back of the pack near to the 5.15 pacer. There was an interesting mix of people in there. Mainly they seemed to be first timers, anxious about getting round but also a fair few sporting their 100 club vests – old hands in amongst the nervously laughing newbies. Rather than thinking I had 26 miles to do I figured I was already over halfway through my race. I hoped this would make it less daunting. Later in the race it really did help; at this point though 26 miles is a feckin long way still to run.

The race started and about 10 minutes later, so did we. I tried to keep my pace slow and stay with the 5.15 pacer. For the first mile it went OK clocking a 10.35 minute mile but the pace was interminable. I decided I couldn’t go on at that speed (I would later yearn for a pace that quick) and accelerated a little to find the 5 hour pacer. The next few miles were pretty good with crowds on both sides as we weaved through the shopping area. Soon though the fatigue kicked in and, together with the heat and any other excuse I can think of, I faded badly. By mile 10 I was in a bit of bother. I had no energy, was constantly thirsty and a tiny bit pissed off. I’ve hit the wall once before – ironically at MK marathon two years ago – but not when I still had 16 miles to go. It was going to be a long afternoon if I didn’t sort myself out. Luckily the water stations are only every 3 miles rather than every mile so a) I couldn’t drink too much more than I should (or so I thought) and b) I had a target to aim for. Try to run to each feed station and then have a 10 minute walk. Unless of course there is even the slightest incline, in which case engage ultra marathon training and walk.

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So that is what I did. For the next 12 miles I pretty much ran/walked the marathon. But I was drinking too much, taking on a whole Gatorade and half a bottle of water every three miles. I knew it was too much but couldn’t help it. At 18 miles I had to stop for a wee in the bushes. To have enough liquid in me at mile 18 of a marathon meant I was seriously over doing it and gave me the jolt to calm it down.

I had passed the 4.45 pacer some time before but towards the end of this stint he passed me. Something was suddenly triggered and I decided that he wasn’t going to beat me. I had a purpose and an interest and for the final 8 miles we played the slowest, dullest game of cat and mouse as my geriatric frame slowly overtook him, like an overloaded lorry overtaking another uphill on a motorway. Then I’d have a bit of a walk and he’d overtake me, and so on. For miles. And miles.

Finally, a couple of miles from the end I did him, bashing out a 10.20 minute mile and leaving him spluttering in my dust.

Coming into the stadium and seeing the 200m-to-go sign was a great feeling. I crossed the line and felt like theatrically collapsing on the ground to be nursed back by a bevy of St John’s ladies but all I could actually think was “there is about a gallon of Gatorade that really wants to see daylight again.” If any pictures had been taken after I crossed the line I would have looked like I was reinacting Stuart Broad’s reaction to Ben Stokes’ Ashes catch. All I was doing was trying to keep my stomach contents in their right and proper place.

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It was over. Fairly anticlimactic really. But I finished and that, after all, was the point.

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Nice legs, shame about the face.